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Research Support

What are citations? How do I cite?

Citations are created when someone references something in a document. All resources that you use should be cited, including data, articles, books, conference papers, websites etc. 

How to cite things correctly depends on your department, or the requirements of the publisher or journal. 

To learn more about how to cite things correctly, please visit our referencing page.

Using citations as a measure

Citations are used to measure impact from the academic community, and are also often used in league tables or as a way of measuring research performance. It should be noted that citations alone are not a sufficient way to measure research performance, as what makes a 'high impact' publication varies a lot between fields.

More information about this can be found in the video below.

Bibliometrics is the term used when talking about measuring academic impact (citations). Several databases offer tools to analyse citations, however most of these are subscription based. Google Scholar is a free tool, but the information is limited and you have to create a researcher profile in order to access information about your citations.

Please note that the citation information in the database you use is limited to the database only. For example, Scopus only analyses publications from its own database, Google Scholar only analyses publications that are indexed in Google Scholar, and so on.

The University of Essex subscribes to Scopus and SciVal, two tools that can help you get an overview of citations on various levels, from researchers to institutions and countries. If you would like more guidance on how to use these tools, please get in touch with the Scholarly Communications and Research Support team.

Top tips to improve citations

  • Keep your title short and informative
  • Improve keywords in your abstract and main article before publishing.
  • Make your publication available online for free (Open Access).
  • Share your data in a subject repository or the institutional repository.
  • Choose the correct outlet for your research: think about who you will reach by publishing in a specific journal.
  • Create an ORCID to collect your research in one place.
  • Create a Google Scholar profile.
  • Check your Scopus profile for potential mistakes, and link your ORCID to it.
  • Share your publications on Social Media (e.g. Twitter).
  • Write a post for The Conversation.
  • Email your colleagues when you publish - let others know about your work!
  • Cite yourself (when appropriate).

To view a series of videos with some tips about increasing the visibility of your research, please click here.

Below is a pdf version of the institutional Good Practice: Reaching academic and public audiences booklet. If you want a physical copy of the booklet, or would like more  information and help with measuring and improving your academic impact please contact the Scholarly Communications and Research Support team.

Citation stacking and citation cartels

Citation cartels and citation stacking are examples of ways editors, researchers and journals are trying to increase their academic impact (citations) by gaming the system. Being involved with a citation cartel or engaging with citation stacking can be extremely damaging for your credibility as a researchers so it is strongly advised that you refrain from doing so.

Image of stacked stones

Citation stacking is when academics cite themselves to get more citations or when a journal asks academics who submit their manuscripts to add references that are from the same journal to increase the citations to the journal. However, this is now very easy to discover, and so citation cartels have emerged.


Citation cartels are groups of people or journals (usually editors of the journals) who agree to cite each other in order to boost the impact factor of the journal. Journals usually do this during the peer-review process by suggesting that academics add a lot of references to their manuscripts that are from two or three other journals – these journals will then return the favour.

If someone asks you to cite irrelevant research in your work please do get in touch for advice


Read more about Citation Cartels & Citation Stacking here: